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Monday, January 9, 2012

Adventures in Pregnant “Racing”

For the first time in my life, I started a race in the back of a pack — a pack of 1,400-plus runners. I'd like to thank pregnancy for this enlightening experience. To be honest, I didn't have much of a choice, I was delighted to be back on the race scene and soaking up the energy of all the other happy runners and supporters. It was Thanksgiving morning, and I was getting to run with my husband. Untainted joy coursed through my veins!

Life delivered some ups and downs in 2011. One of those downs was not getting to race — no road races and no triathlons. One of the ups is that I am pregnant. So, to be back in my element, I literally felt as if someone slipped LSD into my water bottle — not that I know what it's like to trip on LSD, seriously. I was running on all-natural euphoria! Training and racing are what I do and what brings me closest to my Creator. It is my passion, my relaxation, my meditation, and my freedom. It's not how I define myself, but more simply it is what I was born to do and what I thoroughly enjoy.

Wait, where was I? I digress. Back to Thanksgiving Day, hubby (Jeff), and Gallop & Gorge 8K in Carrboro, N.C. The gun goes off, and so do I, leaving my husband in the dust. Upon realizing we were pregnant, we made a pact: We would do as many road races together as we could, which meant starting and finishing together. How cool! Our own little Adventure Series! Piece of cake for a pregnant lady, but not cool when I am fit and fast and not pregnant, and refuse to be held back by anyone. On any given race day, I become Pavlov's dog, only the bell is replaced with a starting gun, and the food is replaced by the vision of a finish line. What remains the same is the drooling and the complete focus on getting what we want. And not even pregnancy thwarted this all too natural response of mine.

So, in my glazed-over state observed merely by my unbreaking stride and joyful grin, I take off, weaving my way through people I think are so wonderfully fantastic, but at the same time, just too slow for me to stay behind. Within the first few minutes, I realize Jeff is not beside me. I quickly turn around, remembering I am pregnant and hoping I don't get trampled on by other runners, or trip and fall over my Size 11 feet, I find him jumping trash cans and darting through people's yards to catch up to me. Oops. His comment: “What are you trying to do, beat all the other 1,000 pregnant women out here?” Clearly, he was irritated since I seemed to be the only pregnant woman out of 1,400 runners. Oops, again. But I felt great! Not even out of breath! I told him to stay by my side, and I'd get us to a clearing so we could settle into a stride. I was left with a stare, a very serious stare that stands 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 225 pounds. I released the accelerator, we laughed, and we trotted on to a strong yet relaxed 8:36/min pace and crossed the finish line together, holding hands.

Moving on to Dec. 3, 2011, and the Mistletoe Half Marathon, a historically epic race known for its postrace buffet, runners dressed in their best Santa Claus and elf attire, a hilly but beautiful course, and reuniting with old and new friends. For many, it is the last race of the season. I have done it every year since 2006 except for last year, when I traded my running shoes for margaritas and Bloody Marys on a Belize beach at 9 a.m. (honeymoon!). Not wanting to miss another Mistletoe and excited about crossing another finish line with Jeff, we signed up and began our preparations.

Twenty-six weeks pregnant and sporting a round belly, I toed the line and finished in 2 hours and 3 minutes (36 minutes slower than my previous race — see, I am taking things more conservatively!). The starting line was glorious! Cold but sunny and insulated by Jeff to my left and my two best gal pals to my right and 2,000 other runners infiltrating Sunset Avenue in Winston-Salem, N.C.'s West End. And this time, I received the starting gun with more awareness and took my time weaving through the start crowd.

Ahhh, but that didn’t last very long. It happened again: I got glazed over and entered the sixth dimension, Ma-la-la-Land, and I took off. But this time, Jeff didn’t catch me until mile marker 2.5. Feeling slightly guilty but secretly annoyed that he fell off the pace so soon, I glanced over and saw a large man dripping with sweat — gloves and hat already peeled off and dangling from his shorts. He gave me the nod that he was OK, so off we went, cruising along at about a 9:00 minute/mile pace.

How lucky was I? Really? Healthy, active, pregnant, and doing what I love with the man that I love — life is good (I know, pretty cliche of me). I suppose life was good until my bladder spoke up and just couldn't take it anymore at Mile 3. The one and only mobile toilet on the course was at Mile 6. I was in big trouble. The course was way too suburban for me to urinate on the curb, plus with all the cops directing the runners on the course, I was bound to be arrested for indecent exposure. My bladder held on, and I greeted that big green stinky toilet with excitement, but I was third in line. What?! This is going to kill our pace! Sweet, sweet Jeff waited for me and after three long minutes, and we were back on the course, running where, darn it, I took off again. I just felt so good. About 1 mile later at the apex of a hill, that tall stare peered down on me again, and a talk-to-the-hand gesture instantly flashed with his words reaching me loud and clear: “If you keep this up, you’ll be finishing alone.” I didn’t finish alone, and neither did he. We crossed again holding hands, shared a smile and wink, then headed straight for the food and water.
People have told me that having a child would change me, and subsequently, all that racing and career stuff will wane in importance. Yes, becoming a mother is an enormous game changer and a quite welcomed one. But wow, how intrusive for someone to assume or make a statement that I would change my outlook on the other loves of my life. Yes, they do take a back seat, but they are still a priority. By the way, I wonder if someone would ever say that to a man? I digress again. My son has given me the gift of patience, and he has given me a reason to want to work harder and strive for greatness. He has made me realize what is truly important in life, and in particular, in my life and my family's life.

Racing pregnant has been a blast! I have been somewhat forced to stop and smell the roses or perhaps, the aroma of sweaty runners, and notice a few things. Oftentimes, athletes forget all too quickly what a race can give back to us: fellowship, sharing of achievements, and the reminder that we are all in this world together trying to be better people. As a coach and fellow athlete, I continue to witness everyone's observable capabilities, as well as those that lie hidden deep within all of us. Whether you enter a race to win, to conquer a goal, or to share an experience, you will find that every challenge asks us to step outside our comfort zone. For me, slowing down has been an enormous step outside my nice and cozy comfort zone. But by welcoming discomfort, we discover those hidden talents, strengths, and gifts that lie unnoticed within us and awaken to recognize those roses we forgot to stop and smell. Everyday, step outside YOUR comfort zone, and unleash your potential!

Post submitted by Marisa from The Mommiest Network's Content Team

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